Communities Connecting to Research: BUSSW Faculty & BU CTSI Launch New Course Distributed by The Network for Professional Education

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Communities Connecting to Research is a new free online course designed by BU School of Social Work (BUSSW) Prof. Linda Sprague Martinez and Senior Academic Researcher Deborah Chassler focused on improving the relationship between academic researchers and communities. Funded by the BU Clinical Translational Science Institute (CTSI) Community Engagement Program and distributed by The Network for Professional Education at BUSSW, this new course is a system-level intervention designed for community members who are interested in learning more about partnering with academic researchers, and for researchers to understand how to be more transparent with communities. 

While there is a movement to include communities in research in a more equitable way, public distrust in medical and healthcare research persists from a long history of researchers mistreating minority populations. Changing these patterns means providing more transparency and understanding on both sides of the researcher-community partnership.

The course creators are academic researchers who regularly partner with community organizations and grassroots organizers. “Over the years, we’ve learned that community members have a range of different experiences with research participation,” says Sprague Martinez. “And as one partner frequently shares: there is the good, the bad, and the ugly. Part of that variation is because researchers and communities exist in two very different systems. If we don’t know what we don’t know, it’s hard to think about what questions to ask. Our goal is to describe the process of partnerships and different ways to participate in research. Transparency includes knowing how the systems work and what to expect along the way.”

While all research systems are a little different, this self-paced online training program addresses some of the basic elements, and what both sides should think about as a partner. “We cover everything from how the research process works overall to the nitty-gritty of negotiating a contract,” says Chassler. “Participants will learn about research design, methods, budgets, and much more.”

More broadly, the course creators want to promote the movement of increasing community voices in research decision-making. Doing so will facilitate a more positive and equitable process. “All health is local, so community participation in all phases of research–from design to dissemination–is critical for advancing health and health equity,” noted Sprague Martinez.

Register Here

About the Instructors

Linda Sprague Martinez, Ph.D., is an associate professor and former chair of the Macro Social Work Practice Department at Boston University School of Social Work and co-director of the BU CTSI Community Engagement Program. Her areas of expertise include children, youth, and families, community engagement, and racial justice.She is interested in examining asset-based strategies to tackle health inequities including community engaged research (CEnR) approaches like community-based participatory research (CBPR) and youth-led participatory action research (YPAR), which are central to her work. Having formerly worked in municipal and state governance, and as an adolescent mental health provider, she brings practical expertise into her community collaborations that are designed to engage diverse communities of color and low-income residents in community planning and intervention development.

Deb Chassler, MSW, is a senior academic researcher and lecturer at Boston University School of Social Work and co-investigator of the BU CTSI Community Engagement Program. Her areas of expertise include addiction research with a focus on evaluation with community partners, and teaching courses focused on racial and social justice.

About The Network for Professional Education

The Network for Professional Education at BUSSW provides high-quality, innovative tools and training for health and social services professionals to meet the diverse needs of the communities they serve. Practitioners and organizations can choose continuing education programs from the Learning Catalog or partner with a member of the Trainers Hub. Visit The Network for Professional Education or email at